I am trying to make a lions head sculpture, but I am having trouble. It is very hard to distinguish the defining facial features of a lion (except for the mane of course). I'm ending up making my piece look like a cougar, panther, or tiger, but since they are all similar felines, it's hard for me to tell the differences that make each type of animal unique, especially since I'm working with a three dimensional medium. Are there any artists that have tips or techniques I can use to help me?

  • Wander through a toy store and see if you can find a high-quality lion toy to study in 3D. When I was carving dragons, I found a spectacular toy which I have kept on my desk for inspiration (and proportion-analysis) ever since. Since you are trying to differentiate the features of different species, you might want to buy toy versions of all the big cats, as a guidebook of what not to do while finding your lion. Jan 20, 2017 at 3:56
  • Do you have some example of your work that can be critiqued? Pictures could be helpful here. Also your medium might help answers.
    – Matt
    Jan 20, 2017 at 4:06
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    Also, female lions don't have manes... So if you want to see the underlying structure, look at them.
    – Catija
    Jan 20, 2017 at 10:33
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    Heads of felines often look very similar, regardless. Coloration, fur and size are usually a significant factor in our distinguishing them in isolation of their bodies.
    – Joanne C
    Jan 20, 2017 at 11:34
  • It is very difficult to actually tell the difference between a Lion & Tiger skull. Only very specialised biologists and veterinarians can do it with any degree of accuracy. However, the hair colour and formation is the biggest give away. So I wouldn't worry too much about the underlying shape, just the colouration as @JohnCavan has already pointed out.
    – BeaglesEnd
    Jan 20, 2017 at 13:04

1 Answer 1


Ultimately sculpting is as much about your ability to observe your subject as your technical ability to manipulate the medium.

It may help you to do some preparatory sketches. Unless you have a zoo or wildlife park near you you will probably be stuck with sketching from photos rather than life but you will certainly want to look at a range of material.

You might want to look at two pictures of say a lion and a leopard side by side, ideally from similar angles as this will make the anatomical differences more obvious.

The key here is to develop the ability to look at the details of your subject and put aside your prior knowledge of what you 'know' it looks like.

One thing in particular which may help is to look at the proportions of your subject, this goes for both humans and animals. For a face you might want to look at things like, eye spacing and height, head length and width width of the nose etc etc.

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